Rethinking ecofeminism : Wangari Maathai and the Green Belt Movement in Kenya.
Muthuki, Janet Muthoni.
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Issues of the environment have received increasing attention as demonstrated by the rise of the ecological movement in response to the threat of overpopulation, intensive agricultural methods and chemical pollution, all of which are reinforced by industrialization. Ecofeminist theories assert that industrialisation and capitalism have resulted in the oppression of both women and nature. Ecofeminism therefore represents a critique of patriarchal frameworks as well as a grassroots political movement with strategies to bring about an ecological revolution. However, ecofeminism as articulated in the West has been criticised for homogenizing and essentialising women. This study conceives ecofeminism from an African perspective by examining the work of Maathai and her Green Belt Movement (GBM) in relation to the Kenyan context. The study examines the effect of hegemonic practices such as colonialism and capitalism on the environment and gender relations. The study motivates the argument that Maathai's GBM offers a critique of industrialism and capitalist patriarchy occasioned by colonialism as well as a response to sustainability. The study advances the argument that the GBM represents a rethinking of the homogenizing imperative of western ecofeminism. The central hypothesis of this article is that Wangari Maathai's GBM is an African ecofeminist activism, which through environmental issues and interventions highlights gender relations and challenges patriarchy within national and global ideological structures.